Monday, November 30, 2009

More H1N1 Immunization Clinics: Now for ages 6 mos to 65 years, Wed Dec 2 @UMass Campus Ctr Audit, Sat Dec 12 @Bangs

More H1N1 Immunization Clinics: Now for ages 6 mos to 65 years, Wed Dec 2 @UMass Campus Ctr Audit and Sat Dec 12 @Bangs

Please note: Clinics are open to ages 6 months – 65, while supplies last.

More info:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

H1N1 Immunization Clinic for Amherst kids Wednesday 11-11-09 @ARMS 9 am - 1 pm

If your pediatrician/obstetrician still doesn't have H1N1 immunizations available (like Amherst Pediatrics doesn't for all their patients yet:-( check out the H1N1 Immunization Clinic for Amherst kids Wednesday 11-11-09 @ARMS 9 am - 1 pm.

Q: Who can get the H1N1 immunization at this clinic tomorrow, Wednesday 11-11-09?
A: Only people who fall into one of these three categories:
1. Amherst residents who are pregnant
2. Amherst residents living with an infant younger than 6 months
3. Amherst & Amherst-Pelham schools students from Amherst, Pelham, Leverett, or Shutesbury who are age 17 and under (must be accompanied to the clinic by their parent or guardian)

Q: What should I do if I need a ride to the H1N1 clinic at the Middle School?
A: Call the hotline, 413-259-3075

Q: How much does it cost?
A: Free! No payment will be accepted at the clinic, however, please bring your insurance information so that the Town can recover some costs of providing this clinic

Q: What paperwork should I bring other than my insurance card information?
A: Download this form from the Town website or the schools website or pick it up from any Amherst public school, Town Hall, or the Bangs Center. Complete as much of the form as you can before you get in line at the clinic so that things move more quickly.

Q: Will my child get the nasal spray or the shot?
A: Most will get the nasal spray. See the information sheets for the nasal spray (live virus) and the shot (inactivated)

Q: My child was already sick with what everyone says was probably H1N1 -- should my child still get the H1N1 vaccine?
A: If your child was diagnosed with H1N1 based on an H1N1 test, then your child does not need the vaccine. If your child was assumed to have H1N1, but no test was taken, then your child should still get the vaccine. This is also applies to pregnant women and adults living with infants younger than 6 months.

Q: Will this immunization clinic provide H1N1 and seasonal flu immunizations?
A: No. This clinic is for H1N1 immunizations only.

Q: I'd rather drop my child off with the paperwork -- is this OK?
A: No. All children must be accompanied by their parent or guardian.

Q: How long will it take to get through the line?
A: We've never done this before! Recent seasonal flu clinics held by a private company at various CVS locations had a two hour wait. Please bring the things you usually provide for your children when they have a long wait -- books, coloring/small crafts, handheld games or music players with headphones, snacks, water, etc.

Q: I have more questions. Who should I call?
A: Call the hotline, 413-259-3075

Monday, March 9, 2009

Regionalization Materials File Drawer

K-6 Regionalization Study Committee

Saturday, March 7, 2009
9:30-11:30 a.m.
Professional Development Center
Amherst Regional Middle School


1.Charge to the Committee

2.Welcome and Introduction
Maria Geryk, Interim Superintendent
Rob Detweiler, Director of Finance and Operations/Meeting Facilitator

3.Historical Perspective on Regionalization

4.Framing the Current Issue

5.Select K-6 Regionalization Study Committee Chair

6.Identify Factors to Consider

7.Perspectives from Each Town

8.Discuss the Process for Investigating the Factors to Consider

9.Committee Planning—Set Future Meeting Dates

possible next steps
1.Invite Christine Lynch from DESE to meet w/the committee
a.Suggestions for other communities to visit
2.Identify data needed to complete research/investigation
a.Share data from each town
b.Organize the factors for consideration
3.Identify resources needed to complete research/investigation
b.Staff support

Leverett Elementary School Google Group
related to Franklin County Public Education Study Committee

Together we won't
The governor plans to improve education by merging school districts. But other states have tried it - and it doesn't work.

By Elaine McArdle | March 8, 2009 Boston Globe

IN THE ONGOING effort to fix America's ailing schools, one of the most popular ideas is to shrink the number of school districts.

The country once had more than 130,000 independent districts managed by local communities. Merging them into larger units, advocates said, would lead to a more efficient system, reducing costs while offering students more opportunities and producing better academic results. This approach, part of a larger movement to standardize schools, reduced the number of districts by 90 percent between 1930 and 1970.

With budgets under fire, consolidation is again gaining traction as a way to save money. Today, more than a dozen states - including Maine and Vermont - have seriously considered or already implemented plans for fewer, larger districts. And last June, when Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts announced his comprehensive education reform agenda, he made consolidation a top priority. Reducing the number of districts will improve the quality of education, he has said. Virtually every district in the state is a candidate for consolidation if it's determined that merging with another district would benefit its academic performance, according to J.D. LaRock, chief policy adviser for the state education office.

But a wave of research from around the country shows that consolidation does not improve schools or lead to better academic results. Spending on education does not go down; indeed, budgets often balloon with increased transportation costs and more administrators to run enlarged districts. Consolidation leads to schools closing and to bigger schools, with less parental involvement and community participation. And, in many parts of the United States, it has led to children on unconscionable bus rides lasting several hours a day.

"There is either no advantage or actually a disadvantage to making these enormous uber-districts," says Andrew J. Coulson, director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C., who has conducted two major studies on consolidation. "They just don't help kids."

As a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University several years ago, Christopher R. Berry became intrigued with the idea that district consolidation was, in his words, "arguably the most profound reform movement in 20th-century education." Yet almost no one had studied its effects on students.

Now an assistant professor at the Harris School of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago, Berry set out to fill that vacuum. Focusing on 1930 to 1970, the most intense period of consolidation in the United States, he found that consolidation of districts inevitably resulted in the consolidation of schools - closing schools and moving to bigger schools. With regard to student achievement, consolidation was "generally negative," he says, because dropout rates and wages earned by graduates got worse following mergers. (There was no standardized testing of student performance at the time.) His study, "Growing Pains: The School Consolidation Movement and Student Outcomes," co-authored with Martin R. West and published in 2008 in the Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, also concluded that spending on education did not decrease following consolidation.

These findings challenged the entire consolidation movement, which was spearheaded with almost no critical inquiry by state officials and educational administrators, says Berry. "They seem to be convinced, almost as a matter of professional ideology, that bigger must be better," he says.

Several years ago, when Michigan began promoting consolidation, the Cato Institute's Coulson undertook a study there and in three other states and reached the same conclusion as Berry. If the goal is to improve academics, there is "no advantage whatsoever to either breaking up districts or consolidating districts," says Coulson. A 2007 study by Indiana University researchers found student achievement is not improved by consolidation; a 2008 study in Iowa found dropout rates did not decline after district mergers.

Proponents insist that larger districts are cheaper. In theory, big districts can achieve efficiencies of scale with lower per-pupil costs because fixed expenses are spread among a larger student body, and bigger districts have the power to negotiate better prices for supplies and utilities. But studies show the anticipated savings usually don't materialize. Like Berry's research, the Iowa study, by Brian Knight at Brown University and Nora Gordon at the University of California, San Diego, found per-pupil spending did not decrease after consolidation. It is true that very small districts - with fewer than 500 students, say - are the most expensive on a per-pupil basis, and merging them has the potential to significantly reduce per-pupil costs. But these districts represent a tiny fraction of any state's educational budget, so combining them has minimal effect on total costs, says John Yinger of Syracuse University, who in 2001 published with William Duncombe a study of district consolidation in New York State.

Moreover, there's no guarantee that consolidating even tiny districts will save money, Yinger emphasizes: The very process of consolidation is expensive, including new buildings and the often-substantial financial incentives states give to local communities to encourage mergers. Transportation costs can skyrocket with hauling kids to schools farther away. If there are cost savings, they often don't show up for a decade or more, according to Yinger, whose study was published as a working paper for the Center for Policy Research at Syracuse. Moreover, there was no indication that any money saved was funneled back into schools to improve academics, he says.

Meanwhile, Coulson has data that should give consolidation proponents real pause. If states are truly serious about cost savings, they should be focusing on breaking up big districts rather than combining smaller ones, he says. In Michigan, breaking up districts larger than 3,000 students would save the state 12 times as much as merging small ones: $363 million a year versus $31 million a year, he found. Yet there's rarely any discussion of this option, in Massachusetts or elsewhere.

Governor Patrick is on an ambitious schedule. He wants a substantial reduction in the Commonwealth's 329 districts, although he hasn't settled on the ideal number and district size, and legislation to that end will be introduced in the next year to 18 months, according to Secretary of Education Paul Reville. The governor and his administration are convinced that fewer districts will translate into better academics: each district will be larger, and larger districts perform better, they say.

In December, the governor's office released a study that found that larger districts in Massachusetts were academically outpacing smaller ones. Specifically, it found that on a continuum, districts closer to 5,000 pupils were more likely to have eighth-graders who perform better on the MCAS than smaller districts, as well as lower rates of student absenteeism.

"It's not all on one side, but there are some key indicators on which it does appear large districts have an advantage," says LaRock, primary author of the report. (The national studies on consolidation and research from other states are not particularly relevant, he argues, saying each state has a different educational structure.)

But a competing report in Massachusetts has found that small districts achieve better academic results. Last September, the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents' Small and Rural School District Task Force completed a yearlong study that examined student performance in the Commonwealth. It found that the graduation rates in small districts were 6.5 percent higher than the state average, and small districts had a lower dropout rate and better attendance rates. Only 6 percent of small districts were considered "underperforming," compared with 20 percent statewide, according to standards set by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The 10th-grade MCAS is a more important indicator than the eighth-grade scores, the task force believes, and here smaller districts have an advantage. "On the 10th-grade MCAS, the small districts outperformed the midsized and large," says Nicholas Young, superintendent in Hadley and a vocal opponent of forced consolidation. "Some of the highest-performing districts are at or under 1,000 students."

If saving money is the goal, says Young, there are many studies that support effective but less-drastic approaches that keep schools in local hands, such as purchasing collaboratives, in which independent districts join together to buy supplies or utilities, or share certain teachers or administrators. In Maine, consolidation opponents are pushing this option. Reville says he is open to this approach but says it doesn't substitute for consolidation because fewer districts will lead to better schools through streamlined administration and centralized control over education.

"When we talk about thinking and acting like a school system instead of system of schools, I think of places like Maryland, where [the state superintendent of schools] can get 24 superintendents around a table a couple of times a month if she needs to talk about educational policy . . . to get everyone on the same page, to connect it with a system of higher education," Reville says. "There are operational advantages."

For more than 80 years, well-intentioned people have been trying to make schools better this way. And it seems logical.

It just doesn't work.

Elaine McArdle is a writer in Cambridge.

© Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

local news updates
Friday, 1:34 PM
From the Metro staff at The Boston Globe
School districts to study regionalization
February 27, 2009 11:00 AM Email| Comments (0)| Text size – +

By James Vaznis, Globe Staff

Financially strapped communities from Cape Cod to the Berkshires will receive state grants to study the possibility of regionalizing their school districts, which state education leaders say could lead to greater cost efficiencies.

At a press conference this morning at the public high school in Greenfield, state Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Mitchell Chester announced that Greenfield's schools, along with other districts across the state, would receive the first batch of grants from a new state program that is urging regionalization. Each grant ranges between $15,000 and $25,000.

"This funding is meant to jumpstart a movement across the state to find ways for our smaller communities to work together, learn from one another and share expenses in a manner that makes sense fiscally and educationally," Chester said in a statement. "I am pleased that in a year when money is so tight we have [been] able to maintain this effort as a priority."

Greenfield, located in the western part of the state, is looking to merge its 1,500 students and eight schools with the neighboring Gill-Montague Regional School District, which has 1,000 students and five schools. Both districts have fallen upon tough financial times.

Merging the state's smallest school districts into larger entities is one of the many initiatives Governor Deval Patrick laid out in his sweeping state education overhaul effort known as the Readiness Project. The proposal calls for "dramatically reducing the number of school districts in the state" so less money is spent on administrative services and more can be spent in classrooms. All but 41 of the state's nearly 400 school districts serve fewer than 5,000 students.

Districts do not need to fully consolidate with a neighbor to yield savings. Districts could maintain independence while forming partnerships to run school buses, lunch programs, or special education services. The districts could even share superintendents and other central administrators, while keeping their districts as separate entities.

"In light of the current fiscal climate, this type of a collaborative effort is a key step towards finding a more manageable way of funding our public education system, and achieving the goal of providing all students quality education in the classroom," said state Senator Benjamin Downing.

In addition to Greenfield, districts receiving grants include: Ayer, Berkshire Hills Regional, Frontier Regional, Hadley, Harwich, Holland, Mahar Regional, Mohawk Regional, Nauset Regional, Westfield, and Boxford.

The Commonwealth Review podcast: Bob Pura talks School Regionalization